Saturday, November 09, 2019

Why Trump's Impeachment and Removal Is Necessary

The book "Mortal Republic" one is presented with the fall of the Roman Republic and its descent into a dictatorship under Augustus Caesar and his successors.  The fall did not happen over night, but it involved and undermining of the institutions, norms, and practices and practices of the Republic, a move towards calling for violence against political opponents, and a division of the populace into hostile factions.  These are precisely the things we are witnessing under Donald Trump and Senate Republicans who bear sharp parallels with members of the Roman Senate who closed their eyes to abuses of power and office in order to further short term interests (many latter would lose their lives and or property as autocratic rule grew).  At a number of stages, the collapse of the Roman Republic could have been averted had principle and political courage won out.  A piece in New York Magazine makes the case of why Trump's impeachment and removal from office is essential to stop the collapse of the American Republic. Here are  article highlights:

This is not just an impeachment. It’s the endgame for Trump’s relentless assault on the institutions, norms, and practices of America’s liberal democracy for the past three years. It’s also a deeper reckoning. It’s about whether the legitimacy of our entire system can last much longer without this man being removed from office.
I’m talking about what political scientists call “regime cleavage” — a decline in democratic life so severe the country’s very institutions could lose legitimacy as a result of it. It is described by one political scientist as follows: “a division within the population marked by conflict about the foundations of the governing system itself — in the American case, our constitutional democracy. In societies facing a regime cleavage, a growing number of citizens and officials believe that norms, institutions, and laws may be ignored, subverted, or replaced.” A full-on regime cleavage is, indeed, an extinction-level event for our liberal democratic system. And it is one precipitated by the man who is supposed to be the guardian of that system, the president.
In the current scandal over Ukraine, Trump is insisting that he did “nothing wrong” in demanding that Ukraine announce investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden, or forfeit desperately needed military aid. If that is the president’s position — that he can constitutionally ask any other country to intervene on his behalf in a U.S. election — it represents a view of executive power that is the equivalent of a mob boss’s. It is best summed up in Trump’s own words: Article 2 of the Constitution permits him to do “anything I want.”
We have become so used to these attacks on our constitutional order that we fail to be shocked by Trump’s insistence that a constitutional impeachment inquiry is a “coup.” By any measure, this is an extraordinary statement, and itself an impeachable offense as a form of “contempt for Congress.” We barely blink anymore when a president refuses to cooperate in any way, demands his underlings refuse to testify and break the law by flouting subpoenas, threatens to out the first whistle-blower’s identity (in violation of the law), or assaults and tries to intimidate witnesses, like Colonel Alexander Vindman.
He seems to think in the Ukraine context that l’├ętat c’est moi is the core American truth, rather than a French monarch’s claims to absolute power. He believes in the kind of executive power the Founders designed the U.S. Constitution to prevent.
There are valid criticisms and defenses of Trump’s policy choices, but his policies are irrelevant for an impeachment. I actually support a humane crackdown on undocumented immigration, a tougher trade stance toward China, and an attempt, at least, to end America’s endless wars. But what matters, and what makes this such a vital moment in American history, is that it has nothing to do with policy. This is simply about Trump’s abuse of power. He lies and misleads the American public constantly, in an outright attempt to so confuse Americans that they forget or reject the concept of truth altogether. Lies are part of politics, but we have never before seen such a fire hose of often contradictory or inflammatory bald-faced lies from the Oval Office. He has obstructed justice countless times, by witness tampering, forbidding his subordinates from complying with legal subpoenas, and by “using the powers of his high office, engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct” both the Mueller and now the Ukraine investigations. (I quote from Article 1 of Nixon’s impeachment.) Trump has also “failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives … and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas.” (I quote from Article III of Nixon’s impeachment.) He has declared legal processes illegitimate if they interfere with or constrain his whims and impulses. These are not old-fashioned battles with a bureaucracy over policy; that’s fine. They are assaults on the legitimacy of the bureaucracy, and the laws they are required to uphold. These are definitional impeachable offenses, and they are part and parcel of Trump’s abuse of power from the day he was elected.
And most important of all, Trump has turned the GOP — one of our two major parties with a long and distinguished history — into an accomplice in his crimes. Senator Lindsey Graham, perhaps the most contemptible figure of the last couple of years, even says he will not read witness transcripts or follow the proceedings in the House or consider the evidence in a legal impeachment inquiry, because he regards the whole impeachment process as “BS” and a “sham.” This is a senator calling the constitutional right of the House of Representatives to impeach a president illegitimate.
And the GOP as a whole has consistently backed Trump rather than the Constitution. Sixty-two percent of Republican supporters have said that there is nothing Trump could do, no crime or war crime, no high crime or misdemeanor, that would lead them to vote against him in 2020. There is only one way to describe this, and that is a cult, completely resistant to reason or debate. The cult is so strong that Trump feels invulnerable. If Trump survives impeachment, and loses the 2020 election, he may declare it another coup, rigged, and illegitimate. He may refuse to concede. And it is possible the GOP will follow his lead. That this is even thinkable reveals the full extent of our constitutional rot.
Trump has fast-forwarded “regime cleavage.” He is appealing to the people to render him immune from constitutional constraints imposed by the representatives of the people. He has opened up not a divide between right and left so much as a divide over whether the American system of government is legitimate or illegitimate. And that is why I don’t want to defeat Trump in an election, because that would suggest that his assault on the truth, on the Constitution, and on the rule of law is just a set of policy decisions that we can, in time, reject. It creates a precedent for future presidents to assault the legitimacy of the American government, constrained only by their ability to win the next election. In fact, the only proper constitutional response to this abuse of executive power is impeachment. I know I’ve said this before. But on the eve of public hearings, it is vital to remember it.

More Saturday Male Beauty

Pete Buttigieg's Democratic Rivals: A Case of Sour Grapes?

Buttigieg at the Blue Commonwealth Gala.
Of the Democrat presidential candidates, I have only heard two speak in person: Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg when we attended the Blue Commonwealth Gala in Richmond back in June.  Klobuchar gave an impressive speech - or at least it was impressive until Buttigieg spoke after her.  Buttigieg is simply a phenomenal speaker.  This, combined with his more moderate approach to health care reform and other issues, explains, in my view, his popularity and fund raising ability (the Gala attendance in June was reportedly more than 25% higher than usual largely due to people wanting to see Buttigieg).  

All of Buttigieg's success is causing angst and annoyance among Buttigieg's rivals who feel they are more experienced and have "paid their dues."  Where all of this goes is anyone's guess, especially with the entry of Michael Bloomberg into the contest.  I believe there is a longing for change in the electorate, but one non-quantifiable element is charisma - something Bernie Sanders, for instance, lacks.  

Buttigieg also has an impressive digital campaign machine as I have seen personally since the husband and I seemingly are on every Democrat donor list known to mankind.  Of any of the campaigns, I get regular, if not daily communications from the Buttigieg campaign.  I've received NOTHING from the Biden campaign and little from most of the other candidates other than Warren and Sanders who I do not view as electable and who burned bridges with many Virginia Democrats in 2017.  

A piece in the New York Times looks at the griping of Buttigieg's rivals and how he is doing far better in the contest than some would ever have expected.  Here are excerpts:
In the still-crowded Democratic presidential field, one man has triggered an outpouring of resentment and angst. It’s not Donald Trump. As Mr. Buttigieg, the millennial mayor of a town smaller than a New York City Council district, rises in the polls, he has struck a nerve with his Democratic rivals.
Many of their campaigns have griped privately about the attention and cash directed toward Mr. Buttigieg. They say he is too inexperienced to be electable and that his accomplishments don’t merit the outsize appeal he has with elite donors and voters. His public punditry about the race has prompted eye rolls from older rivals who view him as a know-it-all.
And in a field where most candidates find themselves strapped for cash, they snipe at his ability to raise more than anyone else in the primary field except for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
More than a dozen participants in the Democratic campaign — including rival candidates and campaign aides — spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their views about Mr. Buttigieg candidly. They conveyed an annoyance at the McKinsey consultant certitude with which Mr. Buttigieg analyzes and makes pronouncements about the primary.
Recently, though, some of the aggravation has spilled out into the public.
Campaign aides acknowledge privately that Mr. Buttigieg triggers some of his rivals. But they dismiss the criticism as little more than sour grapes. Over last weekend in Iowa, he drew crowds of several hundred people in towns that numbered just a few thousand.
“This is not a contest for who is the most established, it’s a contest for who is the most convincing,” Mr. Buttigieg said during an interview aboard his campaign bus in Waverly. “The better we do, I imagine the more we’ll feel some heat, but that just means we’re doing well.”
Mr. Buttigieg emerged from near-political obscurity to become a leader in the race, surpassing a flotilla of far more experienced governors and senators in the process. He now holds a commanding position in Iowa, one of the biggest bank accounts in the primary race and a string of field offices in the early voting states that is among the most of any candidate in the field. Even if Mr. Buttigieg fails to capture the nomination, he’s already won himself a coveted place in the political universe — as even those supporting other candidates acknowledge. . . . That’s part of what infuriates his rivals, who acknowledge Mr. Buttigieg’s political talent but also see him as benefiting from certain advantages.
Over the summer, a simple mention of Mr. Buttigieg’s name during a conversation in the Senate chamber between Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Ms. Klobuchar was enough to make Ms. Klobuchar extremely agitated, according to witnesses.
Ms. Klobuchar, during an interview last weekend in Iowa, declined to answer when asked if Mr. Buttigieg is qualified to be president. Instead she pointed to his electoral record, which she said shows no signs he could beat President Trump in a general election.
It’s not unheard-of for one candidate in a large presidential field to become unpopular with the others. In 2004, established Democrats made no secret about their dislike for Howard Dean, the relatively unknown governor of Vermont who said he represented “the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party.” During the 2008 Republican primary, Mitt Romney was so disliked by his rivals that only Ron Paul would speak with him backstage before debates. Barack Obama wasn’t popular among his rivals at the beginning of his 2008 race.
“It is a natural thing when a young candidate comes along and has success for other candidates who feel like they’ve toiled in the vineyards to resent it,” said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for Mr. Obama in 2008. “I think they’d like him better if he weren’t doing as well.”
As he’s increased his national profile, Mr. Buttigieg has taken care to cultivate important Democratic donors, party officials and strategists, an effort helped by his failed bid for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee in 2017. Many former Obama staffers, including Mr. Axelrod, have heaped praise on Mr. Buttigieg. Some donors and strategists who are backing Mr. Biden say they’re keeping a close eye on Mr. Buttigieg, as well.
In recent weeks Mr. Buttigieg has grown more aggressive in his attacks on his rivals, further angering them. Around Labor Day, he began defining himself as the centrist alternative to Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders. Then during the October debate in Ohio, he attacked Ms. Warren on health care, Mr. O’Rourke on gun control and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii on foreign policy.
His supporters said it was about time Mr. Buttigieg adopted a more aggressive posture.
On the bus in Waverly, Mr. Buttigieg said his rivals had been unfailingly polite to him in their private interactions, though he acknowledged that his success may have irked those who have seen years of presidential campaign planning tossed aside by his rise.
“I’m not going to comment,” he said, “on the emotions of my competitors.”
As a member of the LGBT community - and one who was once fired for being gay - I will say that it continues to amaze me to see an openly gay candidate do as well as Buttigieg is doing.  In the age of Trump when my community is under open attack by the Trump/Pence regime, Buttigieg's success provides hope for the future.

Federal Court Strikes Down Trump/Pence "Conscience Rule" Allowing Discrimination

One consistent trend of the Trump/Pence regime has been the effort to grant Christofascists special privileges and dispensation from complying with non-discrimination laws using a warped and toxic version of "religious freedom" to justify outright bigotry and discrimination.  One such example is the so-called "conscience rule" that would allow health care workers to refuse to treat anyone they disliked or disapproved so long as they could invoke the smoke screen of "religious belief."  The exemption is so broad that in theory even racial discrimination  - not to mention anti-LGBT animus - could be green lighted. The entire argument is an utter distortion of the Founders' view of religious freedom as written in the First Amendment and, as NPR pointed out, the Court noted, based on "false evidence" presented by the Trump/Pence regime:
. . . .that increase in the number of complaints is "demonstrably false," according to Engelmayer's ruling. Nearly 80% of all the complaints given to the court were about vaccinations — unrelated to health care workers and their religious beliefs in providing care. The judge writes that only 21 — or 6% — of the complaints that the government provided the court are even potentially related to providers' moral or religious objections. During oral arguments, the government's attorney conceded that the real number of complaints was "in that ballpark." "This conceded fact is fatal to HHS's stated justification for the Rule," Engelmayer writes. "Even assuming that all 20 or 21 complaints implicated the Conscience Provisions, those 20 or 21 are a far cry from the 343 that the Rule declared represented a 'significant increase' in complaints."

The rule was always about green lighting discrimination with the supposed justification fabricated after the fact. A piece in Mother Jones looks further at the Court's ruling and the insidious discrimination that the rule sought to allow (the Virginia GOP tried similar stunts that help lead to its historic defeat on Tuesday).  Here are article highlights:
The Trump administration’s “conscience rule,” which would have allowed health care providers to refuse to offer services such as abortions, contraceptive care, and vaccinations that they disagree with on religious or moral grounds, was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge on Wednesday. 
The rule, which was set to go into effect later this month, was voided by US District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer in Manhattan. In a 147-page opinion, Engelmayer stated that the administration did not have the authority to enact major portions of the rule change and that several parts of the Department of Health and Human Services’ argument in favor of the change were factually inaccurate. 
Had the rule, also known as the refusal-of-care rule, gone into effect, it would have enabled providers, pharmacists, and potentially employers to deny health care services, information, or referrals to patients on moral or religious grounds, even in emergencies. Hospitals that forced their employees to provide care over their personal objections would have been subject to penalties such as losing federal funding. The rule would also have allowed providers to decline to refer a patient to another provider in order to receive care based on personal objections to the service. 
The lawsuit that resulted in Wednesday’s ruling was brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James, nearly two dozen other states and cities, and two reproductive rights groups. “Once again, the courts have blocked the Trump administration from implementing a discriminatory rule that would only hurt Americans,” James said in a statement following the ruling. “The refusal of care rule was an unlawful attempt to allow health care providers to openly discriminate.”
Critics of the the rule argued that it would disproportionately affect the LGBTQ population by giving further protection to providers to deny care to patients based on their identities. 
“Today, the Trump administration was blocked from providing legal cover for discrimination,” Alexis McGill, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement. “As the federal district court made clear, the administration acted outside its authority and made false claims to try to justify this rule. This rule put patients’ needs last and threatened their ability to access potentially lifesaving health care.” 

Saturday Morning Male Beauty

Friday, November 08, 2019

The Suburban Backlash Against the GOP Is Growing

I recently wrote about the Virginia Republican Party's slow suicide in Virginia where the population of the urban/suburban areas is surging while the number of rural voters is either stagnant or declining sharply. In statewide races, the Virginia GOP now finds it near impossible to win and losses in redrawn districts will pile up further following the 2021 redistricting which will reflect the population shifts. What the GOP is selling may win the hearts of racists and religious extremist in rural areas, but it is simply repulsive to more and more urban/suburban residents.  As a quote of a former NRCC chair in The Atlantic indicates, the GOP’s transformation from "a party of the country club to the country” does not add up to long-term success.  All indications are that Donald Trump's 2020 campaign effort may accelerate the process across the country and, even if Trump pulls of another Electoral College win while losing the popular vote, the long term trend is clear as urban/suburban populations soar in even states like Texas where sooner or later, the rural vote will not be enough to win statewide elections - or carry states in presidential elections.  Here are some article highlights:

The shift of metro areas away from the Republican Party under President Donald Trump rumbled on in yesterday’s elections, threatening the fundamental calculation of his 2020 reelection plan.
Amid all the various local factors that shaped GOP losses—from Kentucky to Virginia, from suburban Philadelphia to Wichita, Kansas—the clearest pattern was a continuing erosion of the party’s position in the largest metropolitan areas. Across the highest-profile races, Democrats benefited from two trends favoring them in metro areas: high turnout in urban cores that have long been the party’s strongholds, and improved performance in white-collar suburban areas that previously leaned Republican.

“When Trump was elected, there was an initial rejection of him in the suburbs,” says Jesse Ferguson, a Virginia-based Democratic strategist. “We are now seeing a full-on realignment.”
In that way, the GOP’s losses again raised the stakes for Republicans heading into 2020. In both message and agenda, Trump has reoriented the Republican Party toward the priorities and grievances of non-college-educated, evangelical, and nonurban white voters. His campaign has already signaled that it will focus its 2020 efforts primarily on turning out more working-class and rural white voters who did not participate in 2016.
But yesterday’s results again suggested that the costs of that intensely polarizing strategy may exceed the benefits. Republicans again suffered resounding repudiations in urban centers and inner suburbs, which contain many of the nonwhite, young-adult, and white-collar white voters who polls show are most resistant to Trump. If the metropolitan movement away from the Trump-era GOP “is permanent, there’s not much of a path for Republican victories nationally,” former Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee about two decades ago, told me. Trump’s effort to mobilize his nonurban base around white identity politics is having the offsetting effect of turbocharging Democratic turnout in metropolitan areas, which are growing faster than Trump’s rural strongholds. Unique local conditions contributed to each of yesterday’s most disappointing results for Republicans. . . . . But looming over all these local factors was the consistency of the metropolitan movement away from the GOP. Not only in urban centers, but also in suburban and even some exurban communities, Democrats reaped a double benefit: They increased their share of the vote even as turnout surged. The legislative elections in Virginia show the same pattern of the suburban erosion for the GOP in the Trump era. Democrats overthrew narrow Republican majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly by capturing at least five state House seats (while leading narrowly in a sixth) and two in the state Senate. They included seats in the Washington, D.C., suburbs of Northern Virginia and near the state capital of Richmond. But those new gains were probably less telling than what didn’t change: Democrats didn’t lose any of the previously Republican seats that they captured in suburban areas—particularly Northern Virginia and Richmond—in their landslide win in the state in 2017, which foreshadowed Democrats’ gains in the 2018 midterms. That widening separation between the GOP’s strength outside of metro areas and an intensifying tilt toward Democrats inside of them continues the underlying pattern of geographic polarization that has defined politics in the Trump era. Rather than looking to court urban areas, Trump has more frequently denounced places such as Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in an attempt to energize his mostly nonurban base. He continues to aim his message preponderantly at culturally conservative whites, and his campaign has signaled that it considers increasing turnout among such voters central to his reelection hopes.
Few in either party dispute that such a strategy could allow Trump to squeeze out another Electoral College victory, even if he loses the popular vote . . . But yesterday’s results underscore how narrow a wire [Trump] the president is walking with that strategy. Even taking into account Bevin’s personal unpopularity, Bitecofer says the Kentucky result should caution Republicans about a plan that accepts metropolitan losses to maximize rural and small-town gains. “If it can’t work in Kentucky … you cannot do it in Wisconsin or Michigan,” she says. Beyond Trump, the urban/nonurban divisions evident in this week’s elections “should scare the ever-loving bejesus” out of 2020 Republican Senate candidates in states with large metropolitan populations, including Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina. In 2016, the strategist noted, Trump benefited not only because rural and non-college-educated white voters turned out in big numbers, but because turnout was weak among minorities and mediocre among young people. But in 2018—and again last night—large turnout in metropolitan areas swamped strong showings for the GOP in rural communities, the strategist noted. That raises the question of whether even big turnout in nonmetro areas will suffice for Trump if the metropolitan areas moving away from him continue to vote at the elevated levels evident in 2018 and 2019. Davis, the former NRCC chair, likewise believes that the GOP’s transformation from a party of “the country club to the country” does not add up to long-term success. “What’s happening is that the fast-growing areas [are] where the Democrats are doing better,” he told me. “There aren’t enough white rural voters to make up the difference.” Despite the GOP’s recent metropolitan losses, Trump’s approach has generated astonishingly little dissent inside the party. Yesterday’s results are unlikely to break that silence. But Weaver, like other GOP strategists dubious of Trump, says the party cannot indefinitely ignore the implications of prioritizing rural strength at the price of losing ground in the urban centers, which more and more are driving the nation’s economic innovation and its growth in population and jobs.
“Politics is a free-market enterprise. You have to sell a product,” Weaver says. “And Republicans are going to find themselves, by their own decision making, eliminated as an option for many, many voters, many, many demographic groups for generations to come.”

Friday Morning Male Beauty

Thursday, November 07, 2019

The Virginia GOP's Slow Suicide

As a former Republican and Republican activist - I held a City Committee seat in Virginia Beach for eight years roughly two decades ago - watching the Virginia GOP's slide from power has been watching a form of slow moving suicide, a process which, as I have said before, began when Republicans foolishly began embracing far right Christians and, worse yet, voting them onto city and county committees. To my mind, that move that focused on short term advantage set the stage for the exodus of moderates and educated suburban voters from a party that became increasingly defined by an embrace of ignorance, rejection of science and knowledge and hatred to anyone deemed "other" - a category that includes basically anyone who is not a white right wing Christian.  The move also ushered in the beginning of the GOP's embrace of white supremacy since so may evangelicals in my experience are racist as exemplified by The Family Foundation which traces its roots to supporters of "Massive Resistance" when confronted with school desegregation.  As Virginia's urban and suburban areas have grown, a critical mass was reached where these regions can out vote the racist, knuckle dragging rural regions.  This new reality is not going to change and unless the Virginia GOP can reform itself - something not likely in my view given the grip the Christofascists have on the party even as Millennials exit religion entirely - Virginia will be a "blue state" for the foreseeable future (a view confirmed by Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball).  A Washington Post editorial looks at this new reality.  Here are highlights: 
IN POLITICAL terms, Virginia is no longer a Southern state; it’s an Eastern one that tilts heavily Democratic. That transformation, affirmed in Tuesday’s watershed elections that flipped both state legislative chambers to the Democrats’ control, was long in the making and helped by Republicans who fell radically out of step with the increasingly diverse voters who populate the state’s booming suburbs.
Long before anyone imagined Donald Trump in the White House, Republicans such as Corey A. Stewart, last year’s failed GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate and the soon-to-be-former top official in Prince William County, rose to prominence as right-wing culture warriors. Mr. Stewart, assessing this week’s Democratic gains, said Republicans would be “toast” in Virginia for 10 years. That may be right; if it is, Mr. Stewart himself was a prominent toaster.
Mr. Stewart’s brand of Republicanism — immigrant-bashing, Confederate-monument-revering, gun-loving, abortion-blocking, trash-talking and, lately, Trump-lionizing — has been ascendant in Richmond and elsewhere. It has methodically alienated moderate and swing voters, especially in the vote-rich suburbs of Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads. In a state that won the competition for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters partly on the strength of a well-educated, multicultural workforce, Republicans who threw red meat to their base by attacking undocumented immigrants found their appeal waning.
[T]he GOP’s problems have deep roots. No Virginia Republican has won a statewide election in a decade. And in Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties — Washington suburban localities that together comprise nearly a quarter of Virginia’s population of 8.5 million — elected Republicans at any level are now an all-but-vanished breed.
The party’s enfeeblement was accelerated by its rejection of moderate, substantive GOP officeholders such as former lieutenant governor Bill Bolling and former congressman Thomas M. Davis III. And it signed its political death warrant by blowing up the summer’s special legislative session on gun safety after just 90 minutes, without considering a single bill. That act of cluelessness and arrogance came weeks after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach left 12 people dead.
Virginia Republicans are at a defining moment. If they reverse course and tack to the center, they may again become a force in a state that would benefit from a vibrant two-party competition. If not — if they double down by continuing down the Trumpian path blazed by Mr. Stewart and his like — they might become “toast” not for a decade but for a generation.

Thursday Morning Male Beauty

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

What Democrats Nationally Can Learn From Virginia Democrats' Trifecta

An op-ed in the New York Times by the director of New Virginia Majority looks at how Virginia Democrats were able to win an amazing trifecta that has placed them in total control of this state's government.  As the author notes, this huge victory did not happen overnight - it was years in coming and required steady work at building the Democrat grass roots across the state (especially in the vote rich urban and suburban areas of the state) and across varied demographic groups.  With its off year state elections, Virginia has one advantage over other states: with an election every year - which gets exhausting - organizing and building bridges do not see the lulls that other states routinely see. The other ingredients that helped with yesterday's big win were (i)  the marshaling of financial resources from national organizations and (ii) a mindset that recognized that the path to ultimate victor could take multiple election cycles.  Here are op-ed highlights:
On Tuesday night, Virginia Democrats won their most consequential election in decades. After obtaining a majority in both chambers of the General Assembly, Democrats now have a governing trifecta for the first time since 1993. This is no accident. It comes in the midst of a generational political shift that was put in motion years ago. Virginia’s Democrats got where they are today as a result of year-round community organizing and voter engagement.
For decades, Democrats allowed the prize of an Electoral College victory to blind them to electoral opportunities elsewhere, staving off funding and failing to provide meaningful support for candidates, campaigns and local parties in places they had written off as unwinnable. The national Democratic Party spent millions in Virginia this year, but the state wasn’t always such a priority. From its position in the South to its prominent role in America’s legacy of oppression, Virginia was long considered reliably conservative — unbreakable.
Local organizations like mine understood the political potential of Virginia when we got started 12 years ago. We are winning because we recognize the power of an electorate that includes and reflects the diversity of our state. We don’t talk to voters only when campaign season rolls around. We try to reach voters of all colors, women, low-income workers and young people where they are, which has made it possible for us to develop a robust base of support along Virginia’s so-called Urban Crescent, from Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads. Long before Election Day, we registered more than 300,000 voters, knocked on more than 2.5 million doors, and organized within communities of color to help win significant policy changes like Medicaid expansion, which covered nearly 400,000 people. . . . this type of year-round organizing can pave the way for victory nationally.
Part of the failure of the Democratic Party and many mainstream political organizations in the past has come out of their belief that these communities weren’t worth investing in. But trust is not built overnight. We don’t just sweep in and register voters before an election; we are registering people every day. That work is ingrained in our organization’s DNA. And we talk to people, all year, about issues that are important to them: affordable health care, access to a good education, reforming the criminal justice system, protecting voting rights and making sure our communities have clean air, water and public lands. That is what voters responded to this fall.
[C]hanges in the shape of the electorate and rising enthusiasm among voters can only go so far, without campaign architecture that channels those changes into tangible political outcomes. Democrats can’t view these communities as a means to an end, without building authentic relationships with the people who live there.
Engaging meaningfully with voters of color means talking to tens of thousands of voters to make sure they have the information they need to cast their ballots even after receiving racist Republican campaign communications. . . . . They just needed to be convinced that their vote mattered. To give one example of how this works in practical terms, in precincts in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, turnout this year increased by 24 percent over 2017.
The lesson here is that Democrats must not write off entire geographies or communities. It took years of organizing and multiple election cycles that resulted in incremental progress for Virginia to reach the point where a Democratic sweep was possible. The same arguments once used to justify chronic underinvestment in Virginia’s progressive potential have been used to undermine the potential of similar states in the South, including other states that saw important shifts Tuesday night, like Kentucky, where the Democratic candidate for governor, Andy Beshear, appeared to beat the Trump-endorsed incumbent, Matt Bevin, in a state the president won by 30 percentage points in 2016.
States don’t become battlegrounds overnight. Democrats and national progressive organizations have the resources to take their case to the people and win, but they have to start early and organize relentlessly. When they lose, they have to stay in place and keep fighting for every political inch they can get. No place is unwinnable forever. 
NOTE:  The blue areas on the map are deceiving since they contain much higher concentrations of population that the rural, red, thinly populated areas.

A Harsh New Reality for Virginia Republicans

House of Delegates chamber.
This morning Virginia Republicans wake to a new and harsh reality: they are now the minority party with Democrats controlling the legislature and every statewide office.  Some will be quick to try to blame the debacle on anti-Trump animus - Trump's approval rating in Virginia over the summer was under 30% - but much of the fault lies with the Republican base in Virginia which increasingly racist, homophobia and anti-modernity itself and toxic organizations like the NRA and The Family Foundation (the leading hate group in the state) have set the GOP agenda.  That agenda has been one of unlimited guns, feigned "religious freedom" trampling on the rights of other citizens, and efforts to disenfranchise anyone who isn't a white evangelical.  Finally, a majority of Virginians, especially in the so-called urban crescent said "enough!"  It will be interesting to see how the leading hate merchants try to spin this to avoid accepting their own significant role in making the GOP repulsive to more and more Virginians.  Articles in the Washington Post and Yahoo News look at some of the realities of today's morning after for Virginia Republicans.  Here are excerpts from Yahoo News:
Virginia Democrats promised swift action on a host of liberal policy proposals now that they've won full control of state government for the first time in more than two decades.
Democratic leaders said Virginians should expect a higher minimum wage, new gun restrictions and greater abortion rights after their party flipped control of the state House and Senate in Tuesday's election. They also promised ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, making Virginia the final state needed for possible passage of the gender equality measure.
Suburban voters turned out in big numbers to back Democratic candidates, continuing a trend of once GOP-friendly suburbs turning blue. This is the third election in a row in which Virginia Democrats made significant gains since President Donald Trump was elected.
The Democrats' big win was a warning sign for the president and Republicans ahead of next year's election. Higher-educated and more affluent suburban voters — particularly women — have revolted against Trump's GOP both in Virginia and nationwide.
Democrats were keenly focused on gun issues during the election, saying Republicans should be held accountable for failing to pass new restrictions after a mass shooting in Virginia Beach earlier this year.
Tuesday's election could help cement Democratic rule for the next decade, because the winners will decide who controls the next redistricting process.

Poll after poll showed that Virginians want gun control and believe in non-discrimination protections for LGBT citizens. They also are repelled by the GOP's efforts to undermine the Affordable Health Care Act.  Republican refusal to deliver what so many voters want came home to roost.  The Post piece continues some of this analysis:
But singling out Trump as the reason for Republican failures in 2019 “is too easy,” said Mark Rozell, a George Mason University professor of public policy. Rather, he said, Virginia’s GOP over the past decade has gravitated toward the right on social issues and alienated moderate voters.
Gillespie, for example, embraced a hard-line anti-immigrant stance during his 2017 gubernatorial race after having preached the importance of the Republican Party adopting a more tolerant message to attract voters.
“Democrats have had an easy time characterizing the Republicans as out of the mainstream on issues,” Rozell said. “Republicans in Virginia need to rebrand, refocus and broaden their appeal.”
Even before results were announced Tuesday night, leaders of gun-control groups were taking a victory lap at the Democrats’ rally at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Richmond. John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said a key turning point in the campaign was GOP lawmakers move to shut down a special legislative session in July on gun control, in the wake of the May 31 mass shooting in Virginia Beach.
“I think what we’re going to learn tonight is that was a huge political mistake,” he said. “I think Republicans really turned their backs on citizens of the commonwealth by not taking up a single gun safety measure.”
[D]emographic changes in large portions of the state, including a population explosion in Northern Virginia from the early 1990s through 2010, turned the commonwealth from red to purple.
And now?
“At this point, Virginia has become a blue state — how can you call it anything else,” Rozell said. “In a state that was long considered leaning red and two-party competitive at best, who could have predicted that the Republican Party would fall so dramatically and quickly?”
But how Democrats handle their newfound power could determine whether the party remains dominant in Virginia. If Democratic lawmakers push a progressive agenda, for example, the party risks alienating centrist voters. . . . a Democratic operative, said the party’s core of moderate lawmakers — headed by Northam and state Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax), who is to become Senate majority leader — retain enormous influence over policy.
“They’re both centrists,” he said. “You’re not going to see a coup from the far left. There aren’t enough votes for that.”
It is definitely a new day in Virginia.  Democrats worked hard to get to this point, but Republican extremism and obstruction of the popular will made their job far easier.  Will the Virginia GOP learn from this debacle?  Probably not given the insanity and toxicity of its party base.

Wednesday Morning Male Beauty

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Democrats Take Control of Virginia General Assembly

In what will hopefully be a prelude to the 2020 federal elections, Democrats in Virginia have won control of both the Virginia Senate and the House of Delegates for the first time since 1993.  Both House Delegates candidates that the husband and I backed financially - Martha Mugler and Shelly Simonds - were victorious.  As Governor Ralph Northam - a good friend  - noted, this will usher in a much needed sea change in Virginia:
“Tonight, the ground has shifted in Virginia government. The voters have spoken, and they have elected landmark Democratic majorities in both the Senate and the House of Delegates. I am proud of my fellow Democrats and inspired by our shared victory.

“Since I took office two years ago, we have made historic progress as a Commonwealth. Tonight, Virginians made it clear they want us to continue building on that progress.
“They want us to defend the rights of women, LGBTQ Virginians, immigrant communities, and communities of color. They want us to increase access to a world-class education for every child, and make sure no one is forced to go bankrupt because they or a family member gets sick. They want us to invest in clean energy and take bold action to combat climate change. And they want us to finally pass commonsense gun safety legislation, so no one has to fear being hurt or killed while at school, at work, or at their place of worship.
No doubt there is much gnashing of teeth among white supremacist circles and among Christofascist zealots who for the last two decades have sought to inflict their hate and fear driven version of religion on all Virginians.  Tonight, a majority of Virginians said "no more." and sent those who coddle the gun lobby and haters of all stripes into retirement.   The Virginian Pilot reports in part as follows:
Democratic victories in two senate districts in suburban Richmond and one in Loudoun County gave them a 21 seat majority, while the GOP held narrow leads in two Virginia Beach districts targeted by by million-dollar-plus efforts to flip to blue.
A new 55-or-more-seat Democratic majority in the House came in part from gains in two House districts on the Peninsula, including the Newport News one where a tie vote and a drawing of a lot gave the GOP a 51-49 majority in 2017. Republicans held slight leads in two Beach seats Democrats had targeted with the final precincts still to count.
House Appropriations Committee chairman Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, [who lied extensively in his campaign ads and used racist dog whistling messaging] was defeated by Democrat Clinton Jenkins in a district federal judges drastically changed to undo the General Assembly’s illegal 2011 gerrymandering.
Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr., R-James City, was re-elected. But like Cox, he will lose most of his power to steer or block legislation with the new Democratic majority.
Throughout the election, Democrats sought to tie Republican candidates to President Donald Trump, warning them that a vote for Republicans would mean siding with the gun lobby and reducing access to affordable health care, including birth control.
On the Peninsula, Democrat Martha Mugler flipped a reconfigured Hampton and Poquoson 91st House district, after the retirement of one of the most loved Generaly Assembly members, Del. Gordon Helsel, R-Poquoson. Democrat Shelly Simonds defeated Del. David Yancey, R-Newport News. He was returned to Richmond after a tie vote in 2017 after he won a lot drawing. Democrat victories in the last GOP-held seat in Fairfax county, and a victory in the Frederickburg suburbs secured House majority.
Democrats held on to the 15 House seats they won in the 2017 blue wave election. . . . Turnout was higher than expected in the usually sleepy off-off year elections.
House Democrats out raised Republicans by nearly $10 million this election cycle, according to the Virginia Public Access project. On the Senate side, Democrats out raised Republicans by $5 million.
We celebrated at both the Mugler and Simonds victory parties.  It was a wonderful night to celebrate democracy and seeing the forces of hate, bigotry and obstruction go down to defeat.

Tuesday Morning Male Beauty

Republicans Won’t Stop Killing LGBT Rights in Virginia

It's election day in Virginia and so much is at stake in terms of Virginia's future.  This is especially the case with LGBT rights which Virginia Republicans have blocked for decades now leave LGBT Virginians with no state level employment non-discrimination protections and even without public accommodation and housing non-discrimination protections.  While Republicans have run extremely dishonest campaigns trying to sound almost like typical Democrats, make mistake that these campaign efforts are a lie and that should Republicans retain control of the General Assembly, nothing will change and LGBT rights advances will continue to be killed.  A piece in Metro Weekly looks at this truth.  If you are LGBT or have LGBT friends or family members, it is imperative that you go vote for the Democrat candidates in your House of Delegates and Senate districts. Here are article excerpts that explain why:
Republicans in Virginia have controlled the House of Delegates for almost two decades, since taking control after the 1999 general election.
During that time, though public attitudes around LGBTQ rights have shifted and widespread acceptance of LGBTQ individuals has increased, the Virginia GOP is still partying like it’s 1999, using their power — particularly in the House — to continually halt or kill pro-equality measures.
That remains true even though polls show a majority of Virginians support making it illegal to discriminate against LGBTQ people.
The GOP is even out of step with its own base — a poll earlier this year found that a majority of Virginia Republicans support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.
[T]he House of Delegates has remained stubbornly opposed to allowing any such legislation to escape to the governor’s desk.
With that in mind — and a general election set for tomorrow, Nov. 5, that could hand control of the House to Democrats here’s some of the most notable times Republicans have killed progress for the LGBTQ community in Virginia:
Yanked three pro-LGBTQ bills, fearing they might pass
In January this year, Republican leaders in the House killed three separate pro-LGBTQ bills. Two of the bills would have prohibited discrimination in public employment and housing, and a third would have provided more expansive protections for LGBTQ people in public accommodations, credit, and public contracting. The bills, as with many before them, were killed by Republican-stacked subcommittees, with advocates blaming Speaker Kirk Cox, alleging that he feared at least two of the bills would have passed a full vote in the House.
Killed every pro-LGBTQ housing and employment bill
In 2018, Cox once again stepped in to ensure that four bills designed to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing and employment died in subcommittees — after Cox engineered those committees to heavily favor conservative lawmakers from GOP-leaning districts. This, despite wide support for the bills including from a number of housing, building, and realtor associations.
Rejected protecting transgender people from healthcare discrimination
Also in 2018, Republicans voted to allow anti-transgender healthcare discrimination to continue. A Democrat-sponsored bill would have prevented insurance companies from refusing to cover medically necessary treatments or procedures for trans patients, but all GOP members of a House subcommittee rejected it, effectively killing the bill.
Stopped an attempt to ban anti-LGBTQ conversion therapy on minors
Again in 2018, Republicans — this time in a Senate committee — killed a bill that would have prevented licensed therapists and counselors from subjecting LGBTQ minors to conversion therapy. Widely debunked and considered harmful and detrimental to mental health, conversion therapy purports to “change” a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. But rather than vote to protect children from being subjected to methods that include public shaming, forced vomiting, and electroshock therapy, they instead rejected the bill on a party-line vote. (And it’s not the first time. Republicans rejected a similar ban in 2015.)
Defeated bills to deal with anti-LGBTQ hate crimes
It really was a busy year for killing pro-LGBTQ legislation, as in 2018 Republicans also shut down attempts to deal with crimes that target LGBTQ people — a decision made even as the number of anti-LGBTQ homicides hit a record high.
And that’s just in the last couple of years.
We’ve only highlighted as far back as the start of the 2018 legislative session, but Republicans have killed countless pro-LGBTQ measures over the years, covering a number of LGBTQ issues, from nondiscrimination protections, to legalizing same-sex marriage, to including LGBTQ people in hate crimes protections:
2017: Two pro-equality bills designed to ban discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing and employment passed the Senate before being killed in the House by a Republican-controlled subcommittee.
2016: GOP Delegates killed eight LGBTQ-related bills by punting them to a process that subjects legislation to further review and analysis, effectively tabling them indefinitely. Among those punted were six bills granting protections in public employment, private employment, housing and public accommodations, as well as a measure that would have banned the practice of LGBT conversion therapy on minors. House Republicans then killed two nondiscrimination bills — which had passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote — that would have prohibited discrimination in housing and employment.
We haven’t even mentioned the anti-LGBTQ legislation…
While Republicans in Virginia were busy voting down, tabling, delaying, or otherwise killing pro-LGBTQ legislation, they were also introducing various bills that actively discriminated against the LGBTQ community, including: a “religious freedom” bill that removed penalties for those who discriminated against LGBTQ people (it was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe after passing both the House and Senate); passing an almost identical bill in 2016, which was similarly vetoed; introducing three separate bills in 2017 targeting transgender people in public accommodations, allowing contractors to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and banning trans students from accessing facilities that match their gender identity; and in 2016 threatening nine separate pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation targeting same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights.
And again, that’s just in the last few years.
Democrats expect a “sea change” in LGBTQ progress should they flip the House or Senate
Democrats are arguing that the only hope for progress on LGBTQ rights in Virginia is for voters to flip the House — and the Senate, too — and give Democrats a chance to pass pro-LGBTQ legislation.
As Kathryn Gilley, communications director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, told Metro Weekly last week, “If Republicans were going to do something to help the LGBTQ community, they would have done it by now.”
“They have had a majority in the House of Delegates for 20 years,” she said. “We’ve seen their stance on LGBTQ rights, and it’s not good.”
Again, if you have LGBT friends or family members, if you don't vote Democrat today, you are actively voting to harm your friends and family members.  It truly is that simple. Vote Democrat!

Monday, November 04, 2019

More Monday Male Beauty

Virginia Votes: What is at Stake on November 5, 2019

It is not an exaggeration to state that tomorrow's state elections in Virginia are the most consequential in a generation or more given that control of the Virginia General Assembly is the ultimate prize.  If Republicans retain control of the Senate and/or House of Delegates (in part due to gerrymandering), it will mean at least two more years of Republicans obstructing and sabotaging policies and programs that a significant majority of Virginians want. If the Democrats win control, Virginia will move significantly forward into the 21st century and finally throw off the remnants of its ugly history as a part of the Confederacy and an architect of the Jim Crow laws.  Democrat control will mean the passage of common sense gun control, laws to address climate change and repair holes in the Paris climate accord being torn open by Trump/Pence, an increase in the minimum wage, stronger health care policies, enhanced non-discrimination laws, and redistricting in 2020 that could end GOP gerrymandering.  In short, so much is at stake and it is critical that voters go to the polls and vote out Republicans who have engaged in a campaign of lies since summer wherein they pretend to be moderates - they are NOT - and lying about their own voting records (Suffolk's Chris Jones has been among the most shameless liars - and one of his ads has an older white woman saying he is "one of us," a not so subtle dog whistle against Jones' black opponent).  Here are highlights from a piece in the Washington Post that looks ate the importance of tomorrow's elections:
Voters go to the polls Tuesday for Virginia’s most consequential legislative elections in a generation, with control of state government at stake and the results marking an early skirmish in next year’s presidential contest.
An unprecedented flood of money has boosted many General Assembly races to the spending level of congressional contests. Virginia is the only state where this fall’s elections will determine the balance of power in the legislature, and both national parties regard it as a proxy war over President Trump and his political future.
All 140 seats in the General Assembly are on the ballot, but much of the battle has focused on suburban districts in Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, where voters can swing left or right.
Trump is deeply unpopular in Virginia, and he made no visits there to boost GOP candidates. When Vice President Pence attended a campaign rally in Virginia Beach on Sunday, the Democratic Party of Virginia promoted the appearance.
Republicans are defending thin majorities of 20 to 19 in the Senate and 51 to 48 in the House of Delegates, with one vacancy in each chamber. If Democrats can take control, they could consolidate power for the first time in 26 years and work with [Governor] Northam to enact legislation long blocked by Republicans.
Those include gun control, protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, a higher minimum wage and passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. As the only former Confederate state that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and with its urban and suburban areas becoming increasingly diverse, Virginia is seen by Democrats as an important place to plant the flag against Trump’s Republican Party.
Whoever controls the General Assembly will oversee redistricting after next year’s census — influencing politics for a decade to come.
GOP candidates warn that new liberal Democrats are out of step with traditional Virginia values and will ruin the state’s business-friendly climate. Many suburban Republican candidates have attempted a difficult balancing act, posing almost like centrist Democrats for much of the summer — including blue campaign signs and literature that emphasized gun safety and health care without mentioning party affiliation — but lashing out against “socialists” and abortionists in the final weeks. . . . Republicans aimed to depict Democrats as chaotic, scandal-ridden baby killers, and themselves as pragmatic centrists.
On May 31, though, tragedy disrupted state politics when a gunman killed 12 in Virginia Beach. Amid a public outcry for action, Democrats rallied around Northam, who summoned the General Assembly to a special legislative session in July to consider gun restrictions.
Republicans who control the legislature accused Democrats of cynical politics and adjourned the session after 90 minutes without debating a single bill. Instead, they referred all legislation to a state crime commission.
That was a risky move for Republicans — a recent Washington Post-Schar School poll found that gun policy is the top issue for a majority of Virginia voters. While those voters split evenly among Democrats and Republicans, even bigger majorities said they favor some form of gun control legislation.
Polls also consistently showed that most Virginians are happy with the job Northam is doing, defusing the scandal issue for Republicans.
Turnout is the most crucial factor Tuesday. . . . . Democrats are hoping that anti-Trump fervor will get their numbers up, as it has done since 2016, and they have cranked up celebrity endorsements for good measure, including visits from actors Alec Baldwin and Kerry Washington.
Republicans, meanwhile, focused on unseating several Prince William delegates swept into office two years ago on an anti-Trump wave, including the state’s first two Latina legislators, Hala Ayala and Elizabeth Guzman, and Danica Roem, Virginia’s first transgender elected official. But fundraising in those races has heavily favored Democrats.
In Hampton Roads, the most-watched race is a rerun: Del. David E. Yancey (R-Newport News) faces Democrat Shelly Simonds (D) two years after their 2017 contest resulted in a tie, which was decided by a random drawing live on national television.
Del. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, is trying to fend off Clinton Jenkins in a redrawn district that heavily favors Democrats.
Several Virginia Beach races could be pivotal in determining the balance of power and will test the potency of the gun control issue. Freshman Del. Kelly K. Convirs-Fowler (D-Virginia Beach) is in a tight race in a heavily military district against Republican challenger Shannon Kane; Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr. (R-Virginia Beach) faces Democrat Karen Mallard; and Del. Christopher P. Stolle (R-Virginia Beach) is running against Democrat Nancy Guy.
That area’s two Senate seats are also competitive. Del. Cheryl B. Turpin (D-Virginia Beach) faces Republican Jen Kiggins for an open seat vacated by retired senator Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), and Sen. William R. DeSteph Jr. (R-Virginia Beach) is trying to turn back a well-funded challenge by Democrat Missy Cotter Smasal.
Vote Democrat tomorrow to move Virginia forward - and to symbolically give a huge middle finger to Donald Trump and national Republicans such as Moscow Mitch McConnell, Leningrad Lindsey Graham and the white supremacists and religious extremist who support them.

If you live on the Peninsula, vote for Martha Mugler or Shelly Simonds if you are in their respective districts.